Watson ‘light years’ ahead of last season
Some things are worth waiting for.
Like Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson being the last player off the practice field before his session with the media Wednesday.
Reporters waited while Watson worked feverishly in 95-degree heat long after his teammates had left Houston Methodist Training Center for their locker room in NRG Stadium.
Drenched in sweat, Watson knew what the first question would be.
“The knee is doing good,” he said.
And that’s good for the Texans and their fans,who expect a dramatic turnaround from last season’s 4-12 disaster.
Expectations hinge on Watson staying healthy.
It has been more than eight months since Watson underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. His progress reports have been positive since he jogged on the field April 16 for two weeks of conditioning that kicked off the offseason program.
“For the nine-week goal we put in from the beginning (of the offseason program), I’m pretty much where I wanted to be,” he said. “(I) kind of passed (tests) in the weight room (and) mentally and also on the field, so everything’s going smoothly right now.
“I’m not really surprised. I kind of knew where I was going to be because I put the time and the work in every morning. I’m right where I need to be and where I want to be.”
Coach Bill O’Brien and quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan are careful to temper their comments about Watson. They don’t want to sound overly excited at this point. But the truth is everyone in the organization is thrilled at the progress Watson has made physically and mentally.
“I’m light years from where I was last year,” Watson said. “Coming in as a rookie, just kind of knowing what I knew from college and what I learned in the pre-draft (preparation) and then what I learned in the QB room. Everything was going so fast.
“Having a full season and (an) offseason with coach OB and coach Sean Ryan (and) being able to advance my game and take (it) to another level, it’s been great.” A rookie year to remember
If Watson is light years from where he was last year, imagine what he’s capable of achieving this season if he stays healthy.
It doesn’t get tiresome to rehash Watson’s rookie accomplishments before he suffered the injury in practice: 19 touchdown passes, an NFL record for a quarterback in his first seven games. A pace for 43 touchdown passes. An average of 34 points a game in his six starts, including 39 in his last five starts. A 40.5-point average in the four games he played with starting receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller.
With a year of experience, Watson is convinced he can do better. But how will he do it?
“Go 10 times harder (and) keep improving my game,” he said. “Just focus on me. Stay in my own lane, don’t worry about what the other teams are going to do.
“Whenever that time comes, be prepared for every situation and for a situation that I haven’t been through and a look that I haven’t seen. Play fast through it and learn while I’m doing it.”
O’Brien is adding new wrinkles to the offense because he knows defensive coordinators will be prepared for what Watson did last season. They’re always looking for ways to take advantage of Watson’s talent and keep defenses off balance. They’ll reveal very little before the season begins at New England. O’Brien finally set at QB
Watson has been watching a lot of tape of NFL defenses. He’s like a sponge when he’s analyzing what opponents may try to do to challenge him.
“You’re always learning something new because the defense is always changing or getting more advanced,” he said. “I’m gaining a lot of trust in my preparation and the things I do before I take the snap and kind of recognize what the defense is in.”
O’Brien will never admit it, but he couldn’t be happier with Watson’s progress and what the two of them will be capable of when the season begins. O’Brien is hard to please, and, like Watson, he’s never satisfied.
“With the work ethic he has and the mindset he has, you’re going to get better at knowledge of offense, knowledge of defense (and) your own mechanics,” O’Brien said. “There’s just been a lot of improvement in a lot of different areas, and he’ll keep it going over the next five weeks, and he’ll be ready to go for training camp.”
This is the first time since Matt Schaub played that the Texans will have the same starting quarterback in consecutive seasons.
“We know who our starting quarterback is, and, obviously, we’re very comfortable with that,” O’Brien said. “All that means is we’re settled there. It doesn’t mean anything relative to last year.
“It just means, ‘Hey, look, we have to (be) ready to go in training camp, and we’ve got to continue where we left off from when he was the quarterback.’ That’s kind of what it means relative to that position.”
Imagine O’Brien’s euphoria right now. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage were the Texans’ starting quarterbacks when they reported for camp in each of O’Brien’s first four seasons.
Watson is ready to reward the faith “coach OB” is showing in him. And he does it by learning and maturing almost every day in his quest to become an elite quarterback over a 16game season and in the playoffs.
“I can be better, and (I) will get better,” Watson said. “In (the last) nine weeks, I’ve gained a lot on and off the field — mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
“I’ve been able to take my game to another level.” firstname.lastname@example.org twitter.com/mcclain_on_nfl
Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, left, shows some good rapport with wide receiver Bruce Ellington.